It is interesting to see the cultural, structural, and technical changes that Facebook is going through.
Mike Isaac discusses their mobile first / own your code approach. On the one hand we have seen them change their structure so focus area leaders have full responsibility (and accountability, and the ability to get shit done).
Peter Deng (who I loved working with at Google… enjoyed his rise to fame!) owns messaging in its entirety. They use the standalone app to experiment and try things out, and then roll in these learnings to the main app. The same is true for the photos app. As well as having a canvas to play with, there are users that much prefer the targeted experience of an app dedicated to doing one thing well.
As an aside, I am on the flip side of that. The latest Facebook iOS app has chat on the right hand pane and I never use it, so I wish I could turn it off!
With the standalone app, I can see how Peters team can move fast with minimal communication overhead. I am curious to know how they manage bringing that across into the app, and what process exists for the merging of submodules into that main app.
I have had similar thoughts and issues in my day job. There are cross cutting concerns (e.g. mobile payments), standalone elements (e.g. photo), and the umbrella app that can house them all.
Getting the right structure in place seems critical. If teams aren’t aligned via goals from a high level strategy you get finger pointing and massive politics. It feels like large companies often fall into the same trap:
#1 early folks do amazing things to grow the company
#2 these folks try to codify what they do in process, but forget that it was the people that mattered.
At that point you look up and you have massive bureaucracy in the name of “scaling” and you are screwed.